Thursday, December 25, 2008

'twas the night..

The children are nestled all snug in their beds 
while visions of iPods flash through their heads
papa has retired and so has the dog

oh rats, I can't rhyme at this hour.  I just finished watching White Christmas and am about to slip away before Santa shows up.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whew! halfway point

We are finally at the halfway point in this 1 year ABSN program.  So far we have covered Health assessment, Med-surg, Critical care, nursing research, and Maternity.  Next month we start Pediatrics. The last couple of months have been so intense, I have not had time to do anything but go to school and study. The last post I made about school, was from a sleep deprived, overwhelmed by exams state. That was right before my Critical Care final, the hardest final I have taken so far.  I prepared, and studied, and practiced NCLEX questions but still did not feel I had done well on it.  Somehow, I squeaked an A- out of the class.  After that we had Maternity Nursing, as well as the last half of Nursing research.  I have to say that having 5 week terms is a killer.  You just get to know a teacher and figure out how their lectures and reading assignments relate to their test questions and boom, you have a midterm and a final.  Every 5 weeks, new class, new textbooks, new teacher, new clinical rotation (same lecture room, uggh), it is a whirlwind.  
So let me fill you in a bit on my clinical rotations. This has been my favorite part of school, which tells me I am going to like the work when I get out.  I had my Critical Care rotation at Alameda Hospital, a small community hospital, working in ICU and in the step-down unit (where you go after ICU and before going home).  I really liked this rotation, the cases were complicated and there were many skills to learn.  The doctors in this hospital treated us nursing students as actual people and spent time explaining concepts and discussing cases with us. I learned a lot from them.  The highlight of this rotation was that I got to spend an evening in the ER.  This is where I think I want to work when I am out of school and we don't officially get a rotation in ER so I was thrilled to get this opportunity.  I loved it.  The night was busy, but not so busy that the other nurses couldn't teach me. We had an older man with extremely high blood pressure, a woman who had fallen up some concrete steps and needed stitches and a guy who had cut his hand with a kitchen knife also needing stitches, a repeat drunk needing a banana bag, a woman in the last stages of liver cancer needing pain relief, and an older woman in the midst of a heart attack.  I gave tetanus shots, irrigated wounds, gave pain meds, got ice packs, did several EKG's, hung IV's, and handed stuff to docs and nurses as they tended to the patients. I learned about keeping track of several patients and making sure blood was drawn for labs, meds got charted, and families were updated.  The drunk guy had been there often enough that the nurses knew him, and they were joking with him, I got to start his IV and take it out when it was done, he didn't care that I was inexperienced. The older woman having a heart attack was scared and pretty incoherent, her daughter brought her in and her granddaughter came later, there were quick decisions to make and it was incredible to be standing there with them while they talked with the doctor about the options to make her comfortable or intervene therapeutically.  At one point we were trying to get a good EKG reading and she couldn't be still enough to keep all the leads on; I got her to look me in the eyes and focus on breathing with me while everyone else was doing their thing.  Her eyes were the same pale blue that my grandmother's were, and I felt like we connected in a way that gave her some reassurance and comfort. In that moment I felt the real power of caring for someone, not the technical medical part that is part of tending to their health but the human part.  I love all of those parts of nursing. I am pretty sure that ER is where I want to work, the challenge of each case and the being with people in a time of crisis, that is what I love.  
The next rotation was Maternity at Kaiser Oakland Hospital.  It was great as long as babies were coming, the rest of the time was pretty boring waiting around for the moment of birth. There is not that much to do while you are waiting.  The labor process can be really long and if the end of your shift comes before the baby shows up, you have to leave and the next shift gets to be part of the birth.  I lucked out that my first day the mom was ready to deliver right when I came on and I got a nurse that was willing to let me actually help.  I won't gross you out with details because I know many of my readers are not nurses, but the moment of birth was amazing and the baby was gorgeous.  It is another one of those times you are with people at a really magical moment in their lives and words can't describe how special it is.  I cleaned the baby up, checked her over to make sure all the parts were there, helped get the mom started with nursing, and gave the baby her newborn meds. I worked in postpartum also for several shifts and spent my last day in the NICU holding a 4 pound little girl while she got her feeding through a tube in her nose.  She was adorable, and a great way to end my rotation, in a rocker with a newborn.
Now after a week of shopping, baking, wrapping, addressing cards, and decorating we are ready for Christmas.  It's a good thing too, since it is tomorrow!  Pat is home from college, Rose is climbing the walls with anticipation and Brian and Joe are making lefse.  I am trying to do as little as possible; I've been sleeping in until 10 and sitting on the couch as much as possible.  What? you don't know about lefse? more about that another day (I took pictures).
Merry Christmas to you all!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can

I was supposed to be reading my textbook for Maternity Nursing last night but I could not tear myself away from the election results.  Last night was one of the few times I wish we still had a TV.  But we do have internet so we watched the votes coming in on the web while we listened to NPR coverage on the radio (which we also get through the internet).  It was exciting, I don't think I was this excited about an election since Jimmy Carter!  That was the last time I voted for the candidate that actually won.  We were expecting to settle in for a long night waiting until all the state's results came in, we had our big bowl of popcorn and everything.  McCain completely surprised us all with his concession speech at 7:30.  I was quite impressed with his speech, I think the race may have been closer if he had run it with the same unifying tone that he had in his speech, but I guess he was bound by his party's wishes.  Obama's speech was inspiring and honest, I like that about him.  He inspires, but he also seems pretty pragmatic and realistic. I am anxious to watch the next four years unfold.  The rest of the election in California was not so satisfying. Some propositions passed that I was hoping would fail, and that says a lot about the    Oh well, small steady steps will have to do for now. 
I got back to reading about assessing the healthy newborn and retained enough to get an A on this morning's quiz.  Some days go well.
Did I tell you my youngest turned 12 yesterday too? I am now the mother of a 12 year old daughter who thinks 12 is the new 16!  

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

EBS....*warning* rant follows

This is what you get when you take 48 overachievers and drop them into an intense BSN program that they paid big bucks for.  Add some inexperienced, xxxxxxxxxx instructors, some xxxxxxxxxx clinical instructors, add a few shakes of time crunch, last minute changes and ambiguous details and those overachievers get exploding brain syndrome.  EBS, it is common I tell you.  Clinical manifestations are; argumentative behavior during class, hyperventilation, low O2 perfusion to the brain, buildup of possibly useful but likely trivial facts in the cerebral cortex, sensation of impending doom and grey matter leaking out of ears.  Treatment suggestions; ear plugs during tests, if it is in the powerpoint memorize it, if it is FYI, memorize it, if it is mentioned in lecture, memorize it, if it is mentioned in last minute bulletins, memorize it, but don't worry about the details.  Oh, and it couldn't hurt to give oxygen.  If ICP rises to the point where grey matter starts leaking out of other orifices as well, administer final exam, and apply copious amounts of EtOH, take 2 aspirin and turn off all phones.  I think there was something in the notes about limes and coconuts too but I can't read it due to the grey matter staining my pages.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

William and Mary and Pat

Three weeks ago we put our oldest, Pat on a plane traveling  3000 miles east to start his first year at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.  He chose this school because of it's academic rigor and old fashioned charm.  He had his heart set on going to college on the east coast to have the experience of living in a completely different environment than sunny CA. Neither Brian nor I could go with him to get him settled in and Pat was anxious to be independent and get there on his own.  He originally wanted to take Amtrak cross country to get there, but we convinced him that the likelihood of delays would make that an unreliable way to get to college!  He got there with all his stuff and moved into the dorm and immediately got involved with his new life.  That is Pat, he is gregarious and friendly and gets right into the social scene.  That first weekend we waited for a call from him to let us know how he was doing, I knew he was there because he sent a text that said he had arrived safely, however we didn't hear any more after that.  So I sent him a text asking him to call when he had a little time.  No answer.  Then I tried calling him, no answer and his voicemail wasn't set up yet.  So I sent another text.  (Pat is usually good about at least responding with a word or two to a text message) but no answer.  By this time it was Sunday afternoon and we were beginning to wonder.  I imagined that he lost his phone so I emailed him asking him to call us collect if he had to, just check in with us. No answer. Brian imagined something had happened to him and urged me to call campus police to go over to his dorm and make sure he was alright.  (Note that Brian wasn't going to call campus police but urged ME to do it).  I resisted and started combing the William and Mary website for another way to check on him.  I called the residence hall office but of course they were closed, it WAS Sunday night and VA is 3 hours ahead.  But I found the email listing for all the RA's in the dorms, found his RA and emailed him asking him to go tell Pat to call his parents! An hour later Pat finally called us, his RA hadn't talked to him yet, so he had no idea we were worried.  We were cool though, happy to hear from him and made like we weren't ready to call out the National Guard.  He was having a great time with all the orientation activities, and just hadn't gotten around to calling.  We felt ridiculous, but urged him to just call us every weekend to let us know how things were going.  And he has done that. I reminded him that it is hard to suddenly let go, and while I do trust that he can take care of himself, I AM his mother and will always wonder what he is doing and where he is.  So on my first break from school I used up my United miles and flew out to VA to see him for myself.

Now I can rest easy, I have seen Pat in his new life.  I have met a bunch of his friends, who are all polite and charming. His dorm room looks no different than his room at home did. This photo is taken in the tidiest looking spot I could find.  All is well. We have been having a good time this weekend, negotiating a new kind of relationship.  He volunteers to me that he is drinking milk and eating vegetables every day, I let him know that he should go to the football game with his friends and not worry about entertaining me.  I take him shopping for a winter coat and some bookshelves and offer to help him organize his dorm room.  He lets me know that he and his roommate can handle it, and thanks me for buying the coat HE wants and not the one I think will keep him warmer.  This is new ground and I kind of like it.  We walked all over campus and he showed me the buildings he has classes in, where he gets his mail, where he eats, where the pianos are, and where they play chair ball. Chair ball? it is some game the guys in the dorm made up. The rest of the time I have been browsing around the colonial vill
age, listening to the street musicians, and sipping iced tea. I brought my knitting along and am enjoying some quiet time without any stud
ying to do, or home projects calling out to me.  Here are some other photos of the campus, William and Mary is the kind of campus you think of when you conjure up an image of collegiate surroundings.  Old brick buildings surround huge open grassy fields, giant old oak trees line wandering brick walkways, bicycles parked here and there, and dried leaves drifting in the breezes. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

launch #1

Pat and Joe spend their last hour together jamming to a Latin beat before Pat flies off to college.  Rose was hanging out with them too just listening, doodling and trying not to be thrown out of the studio by her big brothers.  I just got back from taking him to the airport to fly to Virginia.  He won't be home again until Christmas break. That is the thing about going to college 3000 miles away. You don't get to come home much.  There were so many things I wanted to be sure to tell him, last minute things like, separate your laundry, don't take up smoking or drinking, wear a sweater and socks when it is cold, if you do drink  don't drink too much, don't forget to study, you need to study 2-3 hours for every hour of class, be sure to eat something green every day preferable a vegetable, have some fun, but not too much, if you get sick drink plenty of fluids and rest, don't let those southern girls take advantage of you, be nice, don't break any hearts, definitely don't get anyone pregnant and chew with your mouth closed.  I didn't say any of it.  We talked about the traffic, and flying and music and Coney Island.

It has been a whirlwind of a summer since graduation.  Pat has been getting himself ready to go albeit at his usual pace of work for 20-30 minutes, relax on the couch and read for an hour; work for 20-30 minutes, play piano for an hour, work for 20-30 minutes, walk downtown to eat Chinese food, work for 20-30 minutes, read on the couch and snooze a bit, get a snack, work for 20-30 minutes, watch the Daily Show on his computer, etc..  Usually the work part was preceded by a reminder from me that he has a lot to do and the summer is short.  He has had loans to apply for, roommate questionnaires to fill out, dentist, doctor with vaccinations, health forms, eye doctor, shopping for dorm stuff, shopping for clothes.  He especially needed shoes and socks, since he has been wearing only Birkenstocks for the last few years.  As I watched him try on some new shoes, I took a look at his latest pair of Birkenstocks and noticed that they have holes right through the soles!  We also filled out his wardrobe with enough to wear for 3 weeks without doing laundry.  It took him all summer to clean out his bedroom of 10 years of collected stuff (I stopped cleaning his room when he was about 8) We told him we were going to bulldoze whatever he left behind, he stayed up late last night with some giant trash bags and storage boxes to finish the job.  

Pat has been in a strange space all summer.  It must be that transition from high school to college.  I can't remember much about what that summer was like for me other than the couple of trips I went on.  I don't remember doing any of the work to get ready to go, although I am sure I did it, my mother had six younger kids to take care of and little time to help with that.  I don't remember much about how I was feeling either.  Pat seemed to just want to relax and not do much.  He didn't get together with friends as much as I thought he might, and he didn't build his boat he talked about at the beginning of the summer.  He did lots of driving and errands for me, since I've been in school most of the time. He would get in the car and drive somewhere at the smallest suggestion that we needed something.  He seemed to enjoy the freedom that having his drivers license gives him and we just let him go.  We tried to give him lots of freedom this summer.  We wanted to see how responsible he is without many restrictions.  (this was hard for Rose to watch, she thought we were letting him get away with too much)  He did fine though,  he stayed out or stayed up way later that I would have wanted him to, but mostly he   behaved.    I was usually up late studying when he would get home and he would come sit by me and talk a little bit.  Or some nights we would stay up late together watching West Wing episodes from Netflix.  He would usually have to explain the government stuff to me, I enjoyed those evenings together.  I am going to miss him, we are all going to miss him.  Our family is moving into a new phase now, we'll get used to just four around the dinner table, and without the scholarly wisecracks during our dinner conversation.  But just to keep myself from getting too melancholy I made a list of the things I won't miss.
1. finding the greasy griddle on the stove in the morning from his nighttime snacks
2. having the couch covered with his backpack, jacket, several half open books.
3. finding piano music scattered all over the floor around the piano.
4. worrying about his grades when the progress reports would look grim but he would always bring home mostly A's for final grades. 
5. finding my teapot empty because he drank the last of the tea and didn't brew another pot.
6. having to turn off some noisy music he put on the stereo but didn't stay around to listen to.

There, I feel better, now I think I'll go watch some episodes of West Wing before I go to bed....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

following my patient through surgery

Wow, today was amazing.  I have a patient that has many issues, recovering from a major abdominal surgery on two weeks ago, and suddenly needed neck surgery.  Somehow the planets lined up just right for me and I was allowed to observe his surgery.  I went with him to pre-op and observed how they handle patients getting ready for surgery. He did not want to cooperate though, he refused the TED hose and didn't want the intermittent leg inflation machine either both are used to help prevent blood clots from forming in his legs.  He answered all the OR nurse's history questions though and was consistent in denying his diabetes even though he is on glucose monitoring and insulin injections.   Then I followed the OR nurse like a puppy into the locker room, donned surgical scrubs, booties and cap.  We went into the OR to prepare the room.  I met the anesthesiologist and the OR tech.  Watched them get the sterile field ready, get the gurney set up, count all the sponges, sutures, an other things.  Then I helped wheel my patient into the OR and transfer him to the table.  Since he is obese, this took several of us plus the lift team.  The surgeon came in and the anesthesiologist put him under. They sedated him first, then paralyzed his muscles then intubated him and put him on a ventilator. Everything is monitored, breathing, brain function, heart, blood pressure, temp.  They make sure there will be no breakthrough awareness. Once he was under they put that intermittent leg inflating machine on and arranged his limbs and tilted his head to expose his neck.  The OR nurse cleaned the area with betadine and the surgeon draped him with sterile drapes leaving only the front of his neck exposed.  The anesthesiologist sat at the patient's head and watched a bank of monitors and adjusted medications.  He could see the patients face under all the drapes but unless he stood up, he could not see the surgery.  I was allowed to stand at arms length from the patient and watch, they explained some things that they were doing, the nurse was very good about telling me what the steps were and what they were watching for and concerned about.  The surgeon pointed out the thyroid and parathyroid as she was going, and called me to step closer to get a good look.  I felt very privileged to be there and didn't interrupt with many questions.  As she started to cut (after carefully marking his skin) and cauterize the vessels, the OR tech kept handing her instruments and using suction and sponges to mop up the blood and fluid.  He seemed to know what she needed, the surgeon did not have to ask for much.  There was an assistant surgeon that came in to help after the thyroid was exposed.  The OR nurse spent most of the time during the surgery charting at the computer what was going on and getting things like the clean bucket for waste, and step stool for the other surgeon.  They found the mass on my patients parathyroid and were able to excise it from the thyroid pretty cleanly.  The parathyroid and the mass was huge, the pathologist commented that it was the biggest he has seen.  He took it away to analyze it to make sure it was parathyroid tissue that was removed.  Then they had to obtain a blood sample within 10 minutes of removal of the parathyroid to check the PTH level.  That was a challenge.  I got to hold the sheet up for the anesthesiologist to get in to use a foot vein to obtain a sample, while the surgeon tried to get a sample from one of the neck veins in the open part of the neck.  Neither one produced enough blood for the sample, finally the surgeon dug around to get at the internal jugular vein and was able to get plenty.  That got sent off to the lab STAT and they started to close him up after the pathologist confirmed that the tissue was indeed parathyroid tissue.  The assistant surgeon left at this point and the surgeon sewed the subQ tissue first and then the outer skin.  They chatted about their own lives at this point, they no longer had to focus so much on the surgery.  Then they counted everything, on the table and  in the wastebasket to make sure nothing was left in the patient.  After they removed the drapes the OR nurse came over and help the anesthesiologist rouse him.  I guess that once you stop administering the anesthesia, it wears off pretty quickly, although the nurse said he would have no memory of this time period.  My patient was slow to arouse however. He did not respond to commands or seem able to breathe on his own.  He could initiate his breaths but did not take in a deep enough breath to oxygenate his body.  They have criteria the patient has to meet in order to remove the trach tube, one of them is ability to follow commands, and the other is the strength to squeeze the doc's hands and lift his head up for 5-10 sec. My patient could do neither.  They were also concerned about his blood pressure which was dropping pretty low.  Finally the anesthesiologist decided he should remain on the ventilator in the recovery room until he could breathe better on his own.  So we waited till they got all that equipment ready for him in the recovery room (PACU as it is called at this hospital)  The nurse was pointing out to me that it is much safer for the patient to remain in the OR while on the vent until they were ready because he could crash at any time.  They were all pretty calm considering what seemed to me pretty dire situation for my patient.  When they were ready we wheeled him into the recovery room and a new crew of people swarmed around to work on him.  The respiratory therapist was there to work the ventilator, the anesthesiologist stayed, the recovery nurse started her assessment with the help of a couple of other RNs.  This is where I felt in the way. I didn't really know what to do and there was a lot of activity right away all around him.  The RT was watching the ventilator to see how deeply my patient was breathing, to determine when they might remove the tube.  The surgeon came in to check on him and examined the wound from his previous surgery (done by another surgeon)  and ended up cleaning it, culturing it and repacking it with gauze.  I watched all this pretty carefully.  Meanwhile the patient was coming around a little more and was agitated about the pain in his abdomen and the tube in his throat.  He wanted it out.  The nurse wanted to give him some pain meds but the anesthesiologist (who was still sitting there) didn't want him to have any since it would affect his breathing.  But the patient was in pain and agitated so he let him have some, and it helped immediately.  He wanted the tube out though. They drew a blood sample for arterial blood gas test, the RT did this, I understand nurses don't usually do this procedure.  I got to watch that too, but I couldn't really tell how you know you are drawing from an artery and not a vein.  He use the patient's wrist.  The anesthesiologist decided his breathing was getting stronger, (an hour in recovery) and he could be extubated if they put him on the BiPAP machine.  It is a machine that delivers positive pressure to the lungs on inhalation and also a lower pressure on exhalation but through a mask instead of a tube.  However my patient got very upset about this, and waved the machine away as they were bringing it to his bedside. He didn't want this machine.  The anesthesiologist then decided not to extubate him then.  He just didn't trust that the patient would be able to maintain his airway and reintubating him after neck surgery would be extremely difficult.  So they ordered an ICU bed for him.  At that point I had to go back to the floor since he would be going to a different unit and I would no longer be able to follow him.  All in all it was a very exiting day for me, although quite a difficult time for my patient.  I wish I could follow up on him to see how he does after a night in ICU.  The report that his PTH levels were decreased was good news but it will be a few days before we hear if the mass was cancerous or not.  I was relieved that I was able to watch the procedures without getting grossed out, or fainting or even feeling sick.  You never know how you will react until you are actually in the situation and I am glad I did fine.  It was actually really fun.  I wonder if I might like working in surgery, who knows.  
Tomorrow I have a new patient.  A very young stroke patient just admitted this afternoon. 

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Study Break or prevention of pressure ulcers

I have been studying all weekend for a test Monday and another one Tuesday. However I did take many breaks.  Yesterday I spent a couple of hours communing with my roses.  They have been quite neglected these last couple of months but they are still producing abundant blooms and making hips like crazy.  I pruned and deadheaded them, got them back into shape.  I got to see how well some of the new bushes we put in last season are really taking off this year, and that there are a couple of bushes that are still looking weak and spindly in spite of the good pruning they got in February.  They may need to go, and make room for some new ones this fall.  One thing about gardening is that you have to be ruthless sometimes, if it doesn't produce and look good with the level of care I can provide, it gets pulled out and replaced.  I do give them a good long time to come around and produce, but I can't wait forever.  I took a nice long study break today to wander around the garden and harvest some flowers to brighten up the inside of the house.  Brian has spent a lot of effort this year to grow some of these from seed for our butterfly patch and cutting garden.  When I spend hours in front of the computer and under two gigantic textbooks (each one is 2000 pages) I need to get up and walk around in the fresh air and breathe in the fragrance of flowers.  I picked a whole basket of asters, cosmos, hydrangeas and others that I don't know the names of and arranged them in vases to set around the house.  I put one on my study table too, so I just need to glance up from my computer screen and see the explosion of color.  

We have a big test tomorrow in Managing Care of Adults.  It covers wound care, diabetes, seizures, eye and ear diseases, problems with immobility, and the nursing process.  It really is a huge amount of material.  As I  read about pressure ulcers and look at the slides of how they look at various stages, I beg
in to squirm in my chair and wonder how long it takes for one to form if I am immobilized in front of my books.  I feel my ischial tuberosity press on the thin little pillow on the chair and I quickly leap up and make sure I don't have any red non-blanching areas forming on my skin!  I also have been so attached to my computer; taking notes, doing online tutorials and quizzes, trading questions and tips with my study group that I dream of having an IV pole with my computer on it to drag around with me wherever I go.  It has become a lifeline feeding me facts, testing my knowledge, and allowing me to reach out to my new friends.  We also have a lab practical on Tuesday; a head to toe assessment in 30 minutes.  I'll practice that after tomorrows test.  

This week we were in the hospital for our clinical rotation taking care of our first patient. My first patient was a very sweet man with cellulitis of the right leg. We spent the first day shadowing the nurse, learning where supplies are, how the medication cart works, what the routine for the day is.  We got our patient and researched all their medications, and their diagnosis.  Then the next day we did the assessment on them, I gave mine a bed bath and changed his bed, gave him his subQ heparin injection, hung some IV's, counted his I & O's and spent lots of time talking to him about his family and history.  I also got to observe the placement of a foley catheter on one patient and do the removal of one on another patient!  Wow, a lot of new things for the first couple of days.  I learned a lot just listening to the nurses and watching them deal with the problems that came up. And there were many. We never stopped, and it was hard to take time for lunch except that I was starving!  I loved the whole process.  The patients were willing to have us students work with them and mine even asked if he could come to my graduation! I can see that this is where the major portion of our learning will take place.  It is exciting to see the things we are learning about in the books, right in front of us.  The whole nursing process is beginning to make sense, constant assessment of the patient and trying to come up with ways to make them comfortable at the same time providing what they need for their healing.  I am going to like this job!
Well, back to the books, a little more review before bed. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Both sides of the Needle

Back to nursing.  We are in our second term of classes now, Health Assessment II and Managing Care of Adults as well as starting  our clinical experience.  Now we are in class from 8:30-7:15 on Mondays and Tuesdays and in clinicals Wednesday through Friday from 7-4.  It is a long week and we are flying through material. Next week we are being tested on giving a full head to toe physical exam on our lab partner which we have to get done in 30 minutes without notes! starting with the scalp, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, testing all the cranial nerves, respiratory, cardiac, peripheral vascular, muscles and joints, abdomen, extremities and spine.  There are lots of specific things we need to look for and note.  We do all of these skills on each other so we get to experience the patient viewpoint too.  Today we learned about administering medications, including injections!  We gave injections to each other in our abdomens and hip muscles. Just normal saline, not real medication and we all did amazingly well.  I have to say it is harder than it looks. Holding the needle above my lab partners hip as I placed my hands on her landmark bones to determine where the muscle was to inject into made me a bit nervous about making a mistake and hurting her.  I could hit a blood vessel or a nerve or bone! and she was watching! Along with the instructor and the rest of the class!  But I didn't hurt her, I found the muscle, injected the saline, drew out the needle and she was fine.   Then it was my turn to be injected.  I am not usually squeamish about injections, they don't really scare me.  But lying in the hospital bed as my partner prepared the syringes and asked questions of the instructor, I began to feel kind of vulnerable.  I have never had an injection in my abdomen before and I was worried that it would be very painful (in the stomach we did sub-Q injections) and I am pretty ticklish and don't like people touching my belly so it took a lot of effort to stay calm with all my classmates watching while she did the injection.  It didn't hurt at all! Same with the IM injection in the hip. No problem.  It was a good experience for us to have with each other.  We learned about how patients may be feeling vulnerable, apprehensive and scared, as well as the physical discomfort of being ill. We are all focused and excited about gaining new skills. We must remember that we are caring for a human patient and not just finding hips to test our injection skills.  There is a lot we need to learn in terms of gaining confidence in the physical skills and also in learning sensitivity and compassion for our patients.  Tomorrow we go to the hospital to get our first patient and shadow the nurse and start practicing some of our newly learned skills. Mostly beds and baths at first I think.  I think our experience today of being on both sides of the needle has given all of us a little perspective.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Closure, Dad is now in his final resting place after an emotional ceremony honoring his service to God, his family and our country.  He served in WWII and Korea as a US Marine and earned medals so he was entitled to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which we did yesterday.  The Marine honor guard is amazing, their precision and respect is something to behold, especially when you are the recipient of their ministry (if you can call it that).  We had a brief Mass for Dad at the chapel then a ceremony at the gravesite with the official flag folding, rifle salute, bugle playing taps and the presentation of the flag to Mom.  The rain held off until it was over then the sky opened up and we had a huge downpour with lightning and thunder.  I can't explain it; I have been a pacifist all my life and although I have always been proud of my Dad's service to our country (it all happened before I was born and he didn't talk about it other than to express the pride he felt to have been a Marine) I am relieved and comforted to know that his grave is here among all those he was so proud to serve with.  Why is this not in conflict with my strong antiwar feelings?  Why am I comforted that he is buried here, yet am so upset with the recent war situation? I don't know; it's complicated, and if I have learned nothing else as I age, I have learned that things are rarely clear in the moment. Clarity comes with reflection and the passage of time.  

Funerals are a wonderful family gathering time as well, and we had a delightful weekend visiting with brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We celebrated a 7-year old cousin's  birthday (which I knew about), and a 50-year old aunt's birthday (which I didn't know about). The family surprised me with a birthday cake a big balloon and a gift too! The gift was a caricature artist to draw each of us during our afternoon picnic at the park.  You know, just like those people you see down at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco that you stop and watch for a while and marvel at how well they capture people in about 6 minutes.  It was very cool, and the kids were thrilled to sit for him, even the young ones could sit still for 6 minutes!  We all enjoyed the the time together even though it meant saying goodbye to Dad.  He would have loved the weekend. 

Now I am trying to catch up on my reading for class tomorrow on the long plane ride home.  It will be late when we get home and 6 AM will come way too soon.  No time to reflect....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

50, where is the hill?

I would advise anyone approaching a birthday that makes them feel old, to rush to the nearest university and sign up to for an intense degree program.  You'll either discover that you still have it in you to learn new things, study late into the night, and find yourself daydreaming and planning how you are going to save the world or at least a few patients just like we used to do when we were 20....OR.... you'll take one look at those 20 somethings with their quick recall, ability to party AND study, and their bodies that haven't begun to fall apart and want to pack up your books and go home wondering what you were thinking when you decided to go to a one  year nursing program.  

I have been reflecting about this birthday for a while, and trying to figure out how I feel about this so called "big one." (it's 50, in case you didn't know already)  I have a few friends that have arrived here before me, most are way behind me, and one shares the same birthday and birthyear! (happy day to you, Glenda!)  At first I rebelled; not against getting older but against how our society overvalues youth and makes fun of the old.  I refused to wear makeup, I didn't cover my gray hair, I talked about my age.  I had decided I just wouldn't give in to the youth culture.  I found it is not so easy though.  Every time I looked in the mirror some gray-haired woman was looking at me and she just didn't look at all like I felt.  I found myself  looking at other  women trying to decide if they were older than me or younger than me, were they already part of this club I was about to join, be it unwillingly?  I have been in school at the local community colleges with people young enough to be my children and I have to admit that it unnerved me to be in a social culture that I couldn't really relate to.  Even though I have two teenagers, I couldn't catch on to the lingo, I was confused by the phrases they used and the things they found funny.  I felt ignored because I didn't fit the category of "hot single babe, date material" so they didn't talk to me. Now I am in a great nursing program with 47 other people just as excited as I am to be there and everyone talks to me, it is a great group of students.

I had dreamed that I would spend my 50th birthday at the beach, the place I like to spend all my birthdays, with my friends and my family, just having a relaxing time.  Then I got into nursing school and it turned out that not only did I have to go to school on my birthday, but I had a test!  I was sure I would be depressed about it, and that I would spend the day wishing I were anywhere else.  But it didn't turn out that way.  I have had a huge turnaround.  I changed my mind about the gray hair and had my hair highlighted.  Am I succumbing to the youth culture or am I just wanting to have the outside of me look more like the inside of me feels?  I don't know.  I do know that I woke up this morning, happy.  I sang the whole way in to school, I wasn't stressed about the exam, I felt relaxed.  The happy, joyous feeling is coming from somewhere deeper than I have felt before, it is irrepressible.  Nobody and nothing can spoil this day and maybe future days too!  I am doing what I want with my life, I have renewed hope in the possibility that I can make an impact on the world. I really think it is that hope that is making me feel so good.  I know that I have already done much in raising our kids, I have always said that raising the next generation of competent compassionate citizens is the best contribution anyone can make to the world.  And we are doing that, our kids make us proud.  But when they step out on their own, I want to continue to contribute and I really feel like nursing is a place for  me to do that. So it makes me happy to be where I am, as I mark the end of my 50th trip around the sun I realize I am not sad or depressed to be getting older, I am happy to be here, grateful to be alive and able to move into the next phase of my life.  I look in that mirror and it's not a gray-haired old lady looking back at me, but it is the me I used to know, with an easy smile and eyes and heart full of hope.  I vow to stop focusing on the time that is passing or the old age that is coming, but instead to revel in the moments I am experiencing right now.  Is 50 over the hill?  I don't think so, what hill? No, 50 is just another step in the journey. I love my life, I am content, I am at peace.

Friday, June 13, 2008

moment of parental pride

Alhambra High School graduation. Here is Pat receiving his diploma, and it is actually in that folder because I went in to the office and paid his AP test fees today. We are all bursting with pride, he has done very well at AHS. He has been the kind of student that gets involved with classmates and faculty, he worked in leadership roles in Mock Trial as the pretrial attorney and in band as the Drum Major. This year the band got their brand new uniforms and Pat looked stunning in the white drum major garb and really got into the role of leading the band. He got to direct the band at the graduation ceremony too.

The weather was perfect for the evening, although some of the speeches were long and not too inspiring, two of the student speeches were outstanding, Mike's and Kathleen's.
Here is Pat with his friends (L to R) Nicole, Mike, Taylor, Pat, Michael, and Kathleen.

They all went back to the school from 10-4AM for the Grad Night party. They lock the kids in at the school and feed and entertain them. I hope he is having fun and can be sort of alert when we have our party tomorrow afternoon.

Pat will spend the summer as our own family taxi driver, ferrying Joe and Rose to their activities while I am in school. He doesn't seem to mind being asked to do it though. Any chance to get behind the wheel.

At the end of August he will be off to the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg VA to study Chemistry and Philosophy. Life doesn't get much better, all those years raising him culminates in a moment of parental pride.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


We are a couple of weeks into the program now and I am already feeling overwhelmed on many levels.
First there is the adjustment for my family. They have been used to having me available to them pretty much 24/7 so this is a drastic change to have me in class 10 hours a day and studying the rest of my waking hours. I can't rescue them when they forget to take something to school, I can't drive on field trips, I can't drop in the classroom to hear their presentations, I can't even pick them up at the end of the school day; they have to walk home or go to the after-school program. It has been the hardest for Rose, she is 11 and still wants me to be present at everything. Pat and Joe at 18 and 16, are liking the forced independence. And now that Brian is working 50 miles away, he is less available too. I am struggling with this part too, I feel guilty about being pulled away, I miss the hangout time with them. Then there are the logistics to adjust to, arranging rides (thankfully Pat has his license now) scheduling appointments for the few hours I have open, getting dinner on the table, the laundry done and the dog hair vacuumed. Even though the kids have always helped with chores, they are having to be more responsible. I know it is good for them but it is still hard. We set up a dinner schedule for the summer, each of us will make dinner one night a week during the week. We did this before and it worked pretty well. Rose is going to do all the laundry for the summer, (for pay) and Pat is going to do the schlepping of people to and from their activities. Joe is working off his new keyboard purchase by painting the remainder of the exterior of the house. Pat is also getting ready to go off to college in August so he has lots of organizing and sorting of a lifetime of possessions to do and packing.
Then there is the adjustment to the amount of work that is involved in a 1 year nursing program. We are in class many hours both lectures and labs, in a few weeks we will start clinical rotations, we have reading, homework assignments, papers, presentations, and practice to do. I took a few evenings off last week to attend Pat's senior concert (he played a piano solo and I was so proud) and his senior awards ceremony (he received several) and Rose's girl scout bridging ceremony and our mother daughter book club. It was worth going to all those events (I can't give everything up) but I feel like I am already behind in the work. We have already had a test and we have another one tomorrow, they come fast and furious, thankfully I got an A on the first one!
Then the adjustment into our new role as nurses. I feel like we are being initiated into a club or society. There is new vocabulary of course, but there are also new ways of interacting with people. There is a whole socialization aspect to becoming a nurse that I hadn't really thought about before. Also we are all feeling a little overwhelmed with the responsibility for our patients lives, especially now when we are so new to the work and are feeling pretty incompetent. Of course we are being supervised, but the reality of the seriousness and complexity of the job is beginning to dawn on us.
Well it is back to studying for tomorrow's exam.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

12 months to RN

Well, the party is over. The break was great, filled with projects, and visits with friends, and reading for fun, and weaving and knitting and even getaway. Now it is back to school!

Today was the first day of class at Samuel Merritt's Nursing program. Forty eight of us from 22- 50ish eagerly showed up to begin this journey. We have come from many different backgrounds to get here, lots of career changes, from teaching, computers, accounting, various businesses, lab work and even a jewelry designer! We began with learning to take vital signs in our Health Assessment class. We were all pretty awkward with the stethoscopes and sphingnometers (to measure blood pressure), hoping that we get smoother at it practicing on each other before we face a real patient. Tomorrow's class is Introduction to nursing and health care. We will learn about the history and changing roles of nurses in health care. Already we are sobered by the responsibility we will have for our patient's care and in awe of the trust they will place in us. I hope we will gain the skills and confidence in the next year to go out into the workplace and really care for people.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Doesn't looking at the ocean just make you happy? It does me. I love the sounds and smell of it too. I spent last weekend in Pescadero with my honey just relaxing. I have a couple months off of school before the nursing program starts; I am packing in as much relaxation and visiting with friends as I can. I have spent the last year or so taking the prerequisites for nursing school and at the end of May I start a 1 year program to earn my BSN. I'll be at Samuel Merritt College in Oakland and various clinical sites. I can't wait to get started and I can't wait to get working. With Pat starting college in the fall and my program we will be up to our eyeballs in debt for a while.

I have been knitting more during this break and I went to Stitches West in February and took classes this time. More about that later. Now I am off to my great nieces first birthday party followed by Pat's piano recital!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year

Just want to wish y'all the happiest of New Years. Thanks for reading my blog and special thanks to all who commented. Here's to another year spent with those we love doing the things that bring us joy.